This will catch you up: Last August I had an ache in my stomach (I don’t like the looks of the word stomachache) that I couldn’t fix. The nurse practitioner said, “It’s reflux.” I said, “It doesn’t feel like reflux.” She said, “Here. Take these reflux pills. In fact, take them for several months.” After four months I stopped taking them and went back to the office. I said, “I’m sort of wondering if this is a gallbladder thing.” Two weeks ago the nurse practitioner ordered an ultrasound and it showed my gallbladder acting all thick-headed and stoned. Ten days ago I met with a surgeon who five days ago (1/26) gifted me with a King of Pop nap right before he sucked my gallbladder out through my belly button (Billy Pancake for those who remember). My scars are gross and I’m sore and cranky and it’s all so boring, so let’s post a photo that shows the location of my scars (do NOT look under that tongue!), and then talk about how things could have been different.
During the months of August, September, October, November, and December, I spent quite a bit of time lying on my back in the dark and thinking about what might be happening beneath my skin. (I don’t sleep well.) Obviously (obviously!), most of the scenes I pictured ended in my demise.
Here are a few things that I imagined were happening somewhere in my abdominal region:
Intestinal obstruction which will surely lead to sudden gastrointestinal death. (Apparently it happens a lot in Tunisia. I’ve never been, but I’ve also never taken a 23andMe test.)
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), which is that thing that happens to Great Danes when their stomachs flip and cut off blood flow to the pancreas, leading to the release of toxic hormones that immediately stop the heart. (The doctor who did my most recent colonoscopy told me that maneuvering his way through my intestines reminded him of driving on mountain switchbacks. That can’t be good.)
Stage 4 Cancer of Something Deep Inside, the diagnosis of which leads to my mailbox filling with recruitment materials from terrorist organizations and suddenly I’m making very poor decisions that involve trading lots of dollars for a suicide bomber jacket.
And my favorite:
Unbeknownst to me, an embryo somehow escaped from my uterus many years ago (not unlike a cow who refuses to take a ride to the abattoir!) and has been living parasitically off of my gallbladder for decades. Although tiny, he is also very fat due to a daffy duct feeding him the lipids that the gallbladder can’t break down. Because of a health insurance glitch, I have to take it upon myself to get some sort of imaging done to figure out what’s going on. An MRI is a very expensive test, so I find the cheapest option that still seems kind of on the up and up.
“A fetal fuel filter?!” I cry as I attempt to go from lying on the floor to standing without looking too herky-jerky. (These bargain MRI joints rarely have sliding beds for the scans (the floors are mostly clean, though), and instead of operating MRI machines, the employees simply look you over while wearing swim goggles. No masks, gloves, or Merck Manuals in sight, but you really can’t beat the price. Two stars.)
Ace: Yep. A fetal fuel filter, also known in medical circles as a gallbladder sucker baby. Have a seat on that milk crate over there and I’ll draw a picture of your GSB so you can show your family what’s going on.
I sat down on the crate and watched Ace as he pulled a Sharpie from his back pocket and proceeded to draw a terrifying image on the back of a Jimmy John’s menu.
Ace: Cute little fella, right?
Ace: The fugitive fetal fuel filters, also known in medical circles as gallbladder sucker babies? Always boys. 100%.
Me (suddenly feeling very protective of my GSB): I think I’ll name him Galileo. Leo for short. And now that I’ve named him, I think I love him. So, what’s the next step?
Ace: Well, there’s more than one answer to that question, pointing you in a crooked line. But if you’ve got a minute, I can get Todd in here to suck out your GSB. He’ll have you back on the road in about an hour.
Fast forward through the next 45 minutes during which I met Todd (he had a beard down to his knee), who gave me a (mostly clean, like the floor) sock (to bite for the pain, like they did during the Civil War when medical supplies ran low) before MacGyvering a plastic straw (not a turtle lover, that Todd) to a shop vac, jamming it into my belly button (Billy Pancake for those who remember), and removing Galileo (and my fritzed gallbladder!).
Todd: You can get up off the floor whenever you’re ready, and if you need a Band-Aid they’re over there in the cabinet. First one’s on the house. Give me five minutes to free the GSB from his host. Grab a doughnut if you’re hungry.
Five minutes later I heard a piercing cry coming my fugitive fetal fuel filter (also known in medical circles as my gallbladder sucker baby).
Todd: Done! As soon as you finish up that long john, you can take the little guy home. They don’t make car seats for GSBs, so just stick him in the glove box.
He’s featherbrained, unambitious, tiny (yet huge!), and I’m beginning to dislike him already.